MEMPHIS STATE UNIVERSITY
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Digitized by the Internet Archive
RECENT TENNESSEE POLITICAL HISTORY
INTERVIEW WITH GUY BATES
FEBRUARY 15, 1977
BY CHARLES W. CRAWFORD
TRANSCRIBER - CAROL LANEY
ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH OFFICE
MEMPHIS STATE UNIVERSITY
MEMPHIS STATE UNIVERSITY
ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH OFFICE
I hereby release all right, title, or interest in and to all or
any part of my tape-recorded memoirs to the Mississippi Valley Archives
of the John Willard Brister Library of Memphis State University, subject
to the following stipulations:
That this interview will be used by no one except the interviewee,
XJJUaI pdAJb(_ t , and the interviewer, C^w4l
, for a period of fj y ears without the written
consent of both the interviewer and the interviewee. In the event of
the death of either of the above mentioned parties during this period
of time written consent must be secured from the surviving party. At
the expiration of />/ years from this date the interview will become
the unrestricted property of Memphis State University unless the period
of restriction is extended by the interviewee.
T hi^f iM ^
QjM l Ufy 12&2 .
(For the Mississippi Val«ey Archives
of the John Willard Brister Library
of Memphis State University)
(OHRO Form C)
THIS IS THE ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH OFFICE OF MEMPHIS STATE UNIVERSITY.
THIS PROJECT IS "THE CRUMP PROJECT." THE PLACE IS MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE.
THE DATE IS FEBRUARY 15, 1977, AND THE INTERVIEW IS WITH MR. GUY BATES.
THE INTERVIEW IS BY DR. CHARLES W. CRAWFORD, DIRECTOR OF THE MEMPHIS
STATE UNIVERSITY ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH OFFICE AND IS TRANSCRIBED BY
MS. CAROL LANEY.
DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Bates, I suggest we start with a little
bit of background about yourself such as
when and where you were born, something about your family and your
early life up until the time you got into a public career.
MR. BATES: Well, I was born in Memphis, Tennessee in
Shelby County on August 18, 1925. My moth-
er's maiden name was Marian Ollie Fisher and my father's name was
Bertram Money Bates Jr. Are you particularly interested in their
DR. CRAWFORD: Yes, I would like to get some of that, please.
MR. BATES: Well, my mother's family came from North Car-
olina and settled in Tennessee. My grand-
father was a captain and ship's carpenter on the river and worked for
years for the Lee Line and father was a captain on a dredge for what was
then known as the, well, it's the U.S. Engineers now. My father's family
came almost, from Germany and settled in Collierville and later moved
to Cherry Station where they were in the nursery business. That was
my grandmother's family. She was a Cohen from the German word Konig.
She graduated, which was rather unique back in those days, from Mrs.
Higbee's which was the girls school in Memphis.
DR. CRAWFORD: That was the time that it was downtown, I
MR. BATES: That's correct. It was downtown and then
later she attended St. Mary's which is next
to what is now St. Mary's Cathedral on Poplar.
DR. CRAWFORD: I think there may be pictures of the two of
them or at least one of them in that book you
have now .
MR. BATES: Yeah. And my grandfather, as far as I know,
his father was Finis L. Bates, who was a
prominent attorney in Memphis. In fact, he wrote a rather unique book
about the life of John Wilkes Booth. His claim was that John Wilkes
Booth was not killed as so stated by the Federal government, but es-
caped from the burning barn and came south. And that he met this man
through an acquaintance. And this man told him that he wanted to give
him the story of his life and proceeded to tell him. I forget what
name he was going under. The book is in the public library at Cossitt's
Library now. But he had all the scars and everything that John Wilkes
Booth was supposed to have had. And the Federal government became so
inflamed by the publication of this book that only four hundred copies
were published and they stopped it.
DR. CRAWFORD: I have heard something about that from an
old friend in Nashville, Stanley Horn.
MR. BATES: Correct.
DR. CRAWFORD: Who was down here and talked with some
people. I think he investigated this,
partly just because he was interested in it himself.
MR. BATES: In fact my great grandfather, exhibited the
body of the so-called John Wilkes Booth,
the mummified body around here for years.
DR. CRAWFORD: I know I've heard Mr. Horn tell about coming
by to see it.
MR. BATES: And my grandfather, his side was in the real
estate business and then later, as I under-
stand it, went broke in the real estate business. In fact, my father
had to get him a job with a farmer's home loan and seed loan or what-
ever it was that one of the bureaucracies created during the Depression.
And as far as I'm concerned, I grew up, attended public school, went
off to school at Columbia Military Academy, graduated and went off to
the service as a private in the infantry and came out as a first lieu-
tenant, and went to college at Southwestern. After my graduating from
college I became Assistant Director of Research for the City of Memphis
and then moved up as Executive Assistant to the Mayor, who at that time
was Watkins Overton. Remained there for nearly four years. When Over-
ton resigned, I resigned. [I] went in the family business for two years
and came back to government as the Collector of Delinquent Taxes and
went from there to ah, the elective job of County Register.
What year did you graduate from Southwestern?
I actually finished in 1949. I was in the
class of '50.
And what years did you work as Administra-
tive Assistant to Mayor Watkins Overton?
Ah, let's see, I was Executive Assistant
from 1950 through 1953. Well, most of '53
DR. CRAWFORD: Then, what was the family business you went
MR. BATES: I went into Home Equipment Company which was
owned by my father and my uncle. I was there
for approximately two years.
Why did you decide to get back into public
I liked it. In fact, I had decided when I
left Southwestern that I was going to make
Public Service a career.
DR. CRAWFORD: You'd been influenced by your father, I sup-
pose in that?
To a great, great extent.
You had an opportunity, of course, to learn
a good deal about public service from him,
and unfortunately, he's gone, for his account would help this project
a geat deal. Can you sum up his public career?
MR. BATES: Daddy actually started as a messenger when he
was sixteen, oddly enough in the Weather Bu-
reau, when I think it was called the National Weather Service at that
time. Dad never went, as far as a formal education was concerned, he
didn't start to school until he was nearly eight years old. And I think
he jumped nearly three grades in the first year, and he quit. He always
liked to put it he quit when he was in 8A. Daddy had kind of a rough
life. He was one of eleven children. There were seven boys and four
girls. And my grandfather went broke. His partner absconded with a
considerable sum of money and as a result all the kids that were old
enough had to go to work. Daddy started he went to work when he was
nine years old or ten as a caddy at Overton Park.
He delivered for the grocery store, worked as a delivery boy for
the drug store. And he liked to tell the story, or doesn't like parti-
cularly to tell it, but he turned in every nickel he made to my grand-
father. And my grandfather kept a book and he was going to pay back
Daddy for every nickel of support he contributed to the family. I think
when Daddy came back from the service after World War I that my grand-
father figures he'd given him $5,000. Of course Daddy never saw a nic-
kel of it.
But in fact, if you had ever known him when he was in his prime he
always walked slightly stoop-shouldered from double-carrying golf bags
when he was growing up. He always laughed, he thought they were paid
fifteen cents for nine holes caddying and twenty-five cents for eighteen
holes. And if you got a nickel tip, you thought you had really had a
wonderful day. And you know the funny thing is, that many of the people
that are far older than I am, but who I certainly knew were community
leaders and political leaders, played golf at Overton Park. That was
the only golf course, and Daddy caddied for many of these people; and
I think that helped him a great deal politically in his later life,
because knowing these people as intimately as he did.
DR. CRAWFORD: When was the Memphis Country Club course
MR. BATES: I don't know. The country club might have
been in existence at that time. I don't think
so, because there were so many of these prominent people who played reg-
ularly at Overton. I'm not positive about the Memphis Country Club.
DR. CRAWFORD: Overton was definitely first and that was
pretty well in town then of course.
MR. BATES: Oh yeah. That was in the boundaries of the
Parkway. It was well within the city. Then
it was only a nine hole course and still is.
But Dad got in trouble as a caddy, and in fact, I think Juvenile
Court got him a job at the Weather Service. And then he left the Wea-
ther Service and enlisted at age 17 in World War I and had to lie about
his age to get in. In fact, the odd thing is, it caught up with him
in World War II. Because when he went back in World War II he gave,
of course, his correct age and correct date of birth and the guy said,
"You know you could be court-marshalled." And Daddy said, "What do you
mean?" He said, "Well, you lied to us about your age when you went in
World War I."
But when he came out of it, he had been a close associate of Stan-
ley Trezevant Sr. , who was a prominent Memphian, realtor and insurance
businessman. But he had known Daddy when Daddy was in the Weather Ser-
vice. When Daddy came back, Dave Present was United States Marshall and
he offered Daddy a job as a Deputy Marshall, which Daddy took. And I
think what really got Daddy started was the American Legion. He got
very active in veteran's affairs, and of course the Legion had just
started in 1919.
DR. CRAWFORD: And Memphis had Post Number I.
MR. BATES: Post Number I was formed here. Colonel Waring
attended the original meeting of the veterans
who later formed the American Legion in Paris in 1918. But Daddy got
active in the American Legion and in veteran's affairs period and rap-
idly became kind of a leader among the young veterans, many of whom later
became very prominent in civic, political, and professional life of the
city. I forget how long he was down there as Depty Marshall, but he
left that to become the Prohibition Agent for Shelby County. And he was
there for as close as I can guess, three years.
He resigned as Prohibitionary Agent to get active or become active
in Major Smith's campaign for a city judgeship. And this part I'm very
hazy on because Daddy never talked much about this. I don't know why,
but he never talked much about this particular period. But it seemed
that Rowlett Paine, who was then Mayor, and Tom Allen, who was then Com-
missioner of Fire and Police and was later President of the Memphis Light,
Gas and Water Division, offered Daddy a job as the Inspector of Police,
if their candidate and I don't know whether it was this Major Smith
or who it was was elected. But anyway this leaked out and Rowlett
Paine and Tom Allen both disavowed it and said they didn't make any
such offer. Now Daddy tells the story that not only did Paine and
them offer but that the organization who was opposed to Paine, who
[they] were originally for Paine — but were later opposed to him — they
offered him a job as Inspector of Police. Faddy McClain, I don't know
who he was, but he was the Attorney General and for some reason dis-
liked Dad. I don't know what's behind it. Daddy always called him
"Mr. Concrete". But he put a quietus on Daddy becoming Inspector and
they offered him instead the position of collecting licenses and pri-
vileges for the city, which he took and he was there up until he re-
signed to become United States Marshall in 1933. He all the time he
was with the city he was more or less what they called a contact
man for Mr. Rice, who was the number two man in the organization. He
controlled all the precinct and ward activities for the organization,
the so-called Crump Organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, this was Frank Rice about 1933?
MR. BATES: Right. Well, actually it was before '33 be-
cause Daddy went in as Collector of License
and Privileges around 1928 and he was there until '33. And he accom-
panied Mr. Rice back and forth to Nashville. Mr. Rice ran the legis-
lative delegation. He was the man that whatever they wanted done here
in Shelby County, he handled in Nashville. And when you talk about
running a delegation back in those days, they ran a delegation.
DR. CRAWFORD: I've heard some about that. What was your
father's part? He worked with Frank Rice?
MR. BATES: He'd drive Mr. Rice around and he was more
or less a courier or whatever you want to call
it. He had as many contacts with people in the legislature as Mr. Rice
did because of Mr. Rice. Mr. Rice would say, "Bert, go tell so and so
such and such." And Daddy would do it. And they'd come to Daddy and
say, "Look, would you talk to Mr. Rice about seeing if he can help us
on such and such bit of legislation and we'll try to help him when y'll
are interested in something." You know it was how you get around with
It was kind of a formation of a state-wide contact that Daddy
made all over the state later when he became so close to McKellar.
Because McKellar picked him up directly because of all these contacts
that he'd made all over the state in the legislature. And he became
almost like a son to Mr. McKellar. They like to use the term "protege"
I think. But actually what Daddy did is he'd take Mr. McKellar all
over the state of Tennessee introducing him to these various people in
every county in the state. [He] did the same thing for Bachman. In
fact, Daddy laughed about Bachman he gave Daddy $27,000 to hand
out over the state to the various leaders in these counties.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, let's see, what occasion was this — an
MR. BATES: Uh-huh, when Bachman was running for a second
term as senator. And Daddy always swears
that till the day Bachman died he believed that Daddy was like every-
body else and just gave these guys two or three thousand dollars and
put the rest in his pocket. But Daddy was pretty widely known. It's
a funny thing by the time he became United States Marshall, he had been
selected as Memphis Outstanding Young Man by the Junior Chamber of Com-
merce. He was elected commander of Post Number I unanimously for the
first time in the history of the Post. He led two successful Commun-
ity Chest drives and he was what was called at that time a young man
on the rise politically.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, let's see, this was after '33 when he
was U.S. Marshall?
MR. BATES: Well, ah, really it started right before '29,
'30, '31, '32, '33. Daddy formed the Council
°f Civic Clubs* There had been civic clubs but they banded them all
together and formed the Council of Civic Clubs, which became a very
powerful organization here. He was always mixed up in something like
this. He encouraged me too. I even became Chairman of the Easter Seals
Campaign, and I became Chairman of the Heart Fund Campaign. I've won
the Americanism Award which is the highest award given by the Legion.
But Daddy encouraged me to do these kind of things. Daddy honestly
believed this. He was one of the few people that I can honestly say
in Memphis, that no matter what he did he never did it with the idea
of profit or personal gain. He did it with the idea of community spir-
it, and I guess he has helped literally thousands and thousands of
people and never has he put one nickel in his pocket from it.
DR. CRAWFORD: That's partly how he had so many friends I
MR. BATES: I don't think there's any question about
it, and he had the type of friends that you
don't shake. I even meet people today I remember, I was standing
on the corner of Second Street and Washington and was waiting for
somebody to pick me up and there was this old negro standing on the
corner, and I happened to notice him looking at me. And he said, "Is
you any kin to Bert Bates?"
And I said, "Yeah, I'm his son."
He says, "Lordey mercy, Mr. Bates, your daddy wouldn't even
know me now." But he said, "Back about thirty years ago, I had a
still down off of Benjestown Road." He said, "I was operating that
still for Mr. (I forget who he said) and one afternoon I was down
there stirring that mash around, " and he said, "I hear all this
rustling and bristlin' in the woods and out come these men." And
he said, "This big man runs over to me and says, 'What's your name?'"
I said, "I told him my name's Frank, "(whatever it was, I forget).
And he said this man said, "I'm Bert Bates." He said, "I'm the Chief
Prohibition Agent here. You ought to know better than to run a still
like this down here!"
He (Frank) said, "Yes sir, I guess I does."
He [Bert Bates] said, "Frank, how many children you got?"
He said, "I told him, I said, 'Mr. Bates, I got nine.' "
He said, "The best thing for you to do Frank, is to get home
and take care of those nine kids and get away from here before I have
to arrest you." And he said he had never forgotten it, all those years
There's story after story told about Daddy like that. He was
Collector of License course that was during the Depression when he
was Collector of License Privileges. And he'd go into a restaurant
and they paid taxes on their licenses based on the number of people
they seated. He'd walk in a place, and perhaps it seated a hundred and
fifty or two hundred people. Dad would put him down for fifty or put
him down for a hundred. But that goes back to what Daddy always said:
He'd do a guy a favor like that, he's got a friend for life. Like he
always said, he didn't care what you did for a guy; you could lend him
five hundred dollars, five thousand dollars and he'd thank you, he'd
appreciate it. But he said all you had to ever do for a guy, you
might call on him later and he might do what you asked him and he
might not because it didn't mean that much to him. But if you fixed
a $2.00 parking ticket for him, he'd vote for anybody you asked him to
the rest of his life.
DR. CRAWFORD: He'd remember that.
MR. BATES: That's even though it was only $2.00. You
fixed a ticket for him and he never forgot
it. But Daddy started really hitting his stride and Mr. Crump
I think I told you before. I told you the story that Cliff Davis told
DR. CRAWFORD: Now which one was he?
MR. BATES: Cliff Davis was a U.S. Congressman from
the Eighth District.
DR. CRAWFORD: Yes.
MR. BATES: And, he originally was the Commissioner of
Fire and Police before that he was a City
Judge. In fact, he run on the Klu-Klux-Klan ticket and got off the
Klu-Klux-Klan ticket and ran with the Crump Organization. Mr. Crump
picked him up because he knew he was goon win anyway. In fact, the
Klu-Klux-Klan ticket/ according to my father actually won the election.
DR. CRAWFORD: In the twenties, I believe that was.
MR. BATES: In the twenties, and the organization act-
ually stole the election from 'em. They
stuffed the ballot box. But Cliff always told I heard him at the
Colonial Country Club he was drinking and he said, "Mr. Crump," and
he held out his hand just about even with his knee and he said, "Mr.
Crump will let you get so high, but you don't go any higher." And
that's exactly what happened that Daddy got too popular. He got to
wherever you went with him, you know they'd say, "That's Bert Bates."
And I think the real breaking point came I forget what year the elec-
tion was [I] just had been eleven or twelve.
DR. CRAWFORD: That would have been in the mid- thirties,
then wouldn't it, late thirties?
MR. BATES: Yeah, not the late thirties, 'cause I went
to military school in the late thirties. But
I was going to Vollintine School so I must have been in the fifth or
sixth grade and Burgin Dossett and Gordon Browning were vying for the
governorship of Tennessee.
DR. CRAWFORD: Would that have been the summer of '36 maybe?
MR. BATES: Must have been. I don't know. You can check
that. Burgin Dossett was supposedly the se-
lection of the organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, you mean the Crump Organization?
MR. BATES: The Crump Organization. He, I know, he
was Senator McKellar's pick and had been
approved by Mr. Crump or McKellar would never have gone along. And
Daddy was sitting downstairs in the Courthouse talking to, I believe
it was, Frank Rice and a reporter came in and said, "Who are y'all
gonna be for, for Governor?" And Daddy laughingly said, "We're gonna
be for Burgin Dossett in the city and Browning in the country." And
the word got back to Mr. Crump and overnight in twenty-four hours
the organization completely changed and supported Browning. In that
election Browning got sixty- thousand votes out of Shelby County and
Browning was elected governor. Two years later, Browning ran for re-
election; the organization went against him and Shelby County cast
sixty-thousand votes against Browning.
DR. CRAWFORD: I believe after that election Gordon Brown-
ing telegraphed Mr. Crump that there was
sixty- thousand reasons why he loved Shelby County.
MR. BATES: Correct. That's right. But he and Crump
fell out right after that.
DR. CRAWFORD: Why did they fall out?
MR. BATES: Gordon Browning's personality. He was a
man from, from what little I knew of him,
I know what Daddy said about him, even though he opposed him in that
particular election, that things were gonna be either done his way or
they weren't gonna be done. He wasn't gonna take any dictation from
anybody. Overton was that way later as mayor. He'd rather step aside
if he thought it was gonna impede progress. And it was gonna be a
constant running conflict with Mr. Crump that would hurt city govern-
ment. In fact, he resigned twice and did for that reason. But he
was the same way. Now he was willing to play, give and take, but he
wasn't willing to be dictated to. He felt like he could reach a com-
mon meeting ground if he didn't agree that there could be concilia-
tions, but he wasn't just going to sit back and be somebody's dummy.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, Hill McAlister had been governor be-
fore and I think ....
MR. BATES: Correct. And he was the first one that I
And he had been told.
Exactly what to do.
Yep. And all the governors after Gordon
Browning were also told by Mr. Crump what to
do. In fact, really up until World War II, Prentice Cooper did exact-
ly what the organization told him. Well, we had, unfortunately I think,
it may be a sad episode in the history of the city. Jim Pleasants,
who I first knew when I first came back from the service in 1946, was
managing headquarters for the Crump Organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Jim Pleasants, was it?
MR. BATES: He was a practicing attorney at that time.
He was a graduate of Ole Miss and later
became mayor of the city. But Jim Pleasants at that time when I
first met him he was just one nice guy. He never impressed me as
being too politically ambitious. He was certainly generous and sin-
cere. He became mayor. Mr. Crump had a running battle with Ed Meeman,
who was editor of the Press-Sci.mitar . No one knows who wrote the
statement. Of course, there's no question among the people that
knew within the organization that Mr. Crump wrote the statement that
Jim Pleasants eventually gave to the newspapers as his statement im-
plying that Ed Meeman was a homosexual and had been kicked out of Knox-
ville as the editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel or whatever it is.
Because of something in his background that was always just implied.
Nothing was ever stated openly but this implication was always there.
And Pleansants issued the statement. He objected to it, but he issued
it even as conscientious as he was.
DR. CRAWFORD: And that was after World War II a little?
MR. BATES: That was in '47 or '48. And he issued the
statement and shortly after that, he re-
signed as mayor. Then he started drinking heavily after that, I
might add. And everybody felt that deep down that he felt degraded
because he had allowed himself to be used and this was beneath his
innate dignity and the man literally destroyed himself. After that I
never saw Jim Pleasants. I didn't see him while he was mayor. When
I went in as Executive Assistant to the Mayor he was the City Attorney.
And shortly after that we just got a call one morning and Jim Pleasants
had committed suicide.
DR. CRAWFORD: Uh-huh, now that was just before Watkins
Overton became mayor?
MR. BATES: No, he was mayor then, when Pleasants com-
mitted suicide. He(Plea sants) was his
DR. CRAWFORD: And you had gotten out of Southwestern and
were the Executive ....
MR. BATES: Assistanat to the mayor.
DR. CRAWFORD: To Watkins Overton.
MR. BATES: Yeah. But after Daddy endorsed Dossett,
to get back to the story, so to speak, the
hatchet was out and his files in the United States Marshall's office
were rifled. A letter was taken out of the files. The letter was
taken out of context and held over Dad's head implying that he was using
the United States Marshall's office as a stepping stone to do in the
liquor business. And Daddy resigned. Now frankly if I had been him,
I would never have resigned; I'd have said, "Say anything you want to."
DR. CRAWFORD: For what he had was a Federal position?
MR. BATES: That's correct. But the thing about it is,
and it's a funny thing, but that's one of
Daddy's characteristics I never understood. That no matter how he
was maligned by Mr. Crump and he was maligned a couple of times in
his lifetime he always remained steadfastly loyal to the man. I
never really could come to any logical conclusion in my own mind as
to why he persisted in this loyalty; but he did, he never wavered.
When he was out politically, which he was, he went to work for Chip
Barwick Chevrolet Company. He was out politically. He always worked
for the organization and stayed with the organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Even when he was with Chip Barwick?
MR. BATES: Even when he was with Chip Barwick
Chevrolet Company! And of course, when
he came back to Memphis from World War II, when it was advantageous
Mr. Crump grabbed hold of him and at that time Daddy got active again
in veteran's affairs. And built the Legion up to the second lar-
gest post in the United States. They elected just the succession,
or Daddy elected by himself, there was no ifs, ands, or buts , if you
got the laying on of hands from Daddy you were gonna be the next
Commander of the post.
And there again out of World War II, we have just a succession
of commanders who became very prominent politically, businesswise .
There was Rodney Baber, there was Pat Joyner, there was Justin McKel-
lar, George Lewis, Julian Bondurant. Even those who weren't elected
who were very active at that time, Henry Loeb was hand-picked by
Daddy to become vice- commander , later opposed Daddy to become com-
mander. There was Frank Norfleet, Ned Cook, all of them in this group.
But then here again Daddy became too popular. I think oddly e-
nough, the incident, the straw that broke the camel's back(and I for-
get after what election it was) but we were at a meeting at the Clar-
idge Hotel or I guess you would call it an after-election party. And
as I recall, Daddy was there. Mr. Crump came into the room. Maury
Moss, who was then Presdent of John A. Denny, very close friend of
Daddy's. Oh, there was another guy that became commander, Maury Moss's
right-hand man, executive vice-president of Fisher Lime and Cement
Company , Forrest Ladd.
DR. CRAWFORD: M-O-S-S.
MR. BATES:: M-O-S-S. Forrest Ladd who became a state
senator at Daddy's urging, he got Mr. Crump
to back him. He was the one that brought Mr. Moss down there and Mr.
Moss was drinking rather heavily and I don't think he was really aware
of what he was saying because he was a very close friend of my father's
and he wasn't aware that Mr. Crump had come into the room. And he
said to Daddy, "Well Bert, congratulations on this election. Y'all
have done a fantastic job." He said, "You know you're gonna be the
next Mr. Crump." And I think that did it right there.
DR. CRAWFORD: Yes, Mr. Crump overheard that?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh . And Joe Boyle never had liked Daddy.
I have never known the reasons behind that.
I have heard Daddy say rather vindictive things about Boyle.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, they were both in law enforcement
business in different positions.
MR. BATES: Well, when Daddy first knew Boyle, you
see these things get all crosswise. In
your position in a political organization, you 're always envied by
the people that are under you and disliked by the people that are
ahead of you. But when Daddy was originally coming up in the organ-
ization, in fact, way up as Frank Rice's contact man, Boyle was the
custodian of the court house, which was really just over the janitors.
He kept the court house clean. And I really think deep down that Boyle
resented anyone that had the Man's [Crumps] ear. And he was the type
of person (God rest his soul now) that would tell an outright lie if
he thought that it would further his position with the Man on the Cor-
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, what do you mean by the "Man on the Cor-
MR. BATES: Mr. Crump, That's what he was called, the
Man on the Corner cause he was right there
on the corner of Adams and Main Street and right overlooking the
courthouse. In fact, Mayor Overton always said, right there on the
east side of the building of E. H. Crump and Company there was this
huge sign in gold across E.H.CUMP AND COMPANY that you could see
right from the courthouse. And Overton always swore that Mr. Crump
put it there in those great big huge letters so everybody would
know who the boss was. (Laughter) Right after that he wrote Daddy one
of the most inane, childish, ludicrous, letters that you d find it
if you could see the letter. The letter is destroyed now.
DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Crump wrote the letter?
MR. BATES: Right. And he had it hand-delivered by
Charlie Bryan, who was kind of a stoolie
for Mr. Crump. But in the letter, it sounded like some grammar school
kid that was writing a letter to another and it said, "Dear Bert, I
am well aware now that you want to be the king of the underworld in
Memphis and Shelby County." Daddy never figured out what the man was —
he sounded like he had even really slipped his cogs that Daddy should
put a skull and cross-bones on a sign in his front yard. And Daddy
just tore the letter up and threw it away. And called Mr. Crump on
the phone and told him that he had, and said it was beneath him to
even keep a piece of communication of that nature. And the odd thing
is, Daddy went out. Course he came back after Mr. Crump died, but
Daddy was then on Mr. Crump's list.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now this was after World War II?
MR. BATES: Oh yeah, this was in '52 or '53.
DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Crump was pretty old then.
MR. BATES: He died shortly thereafter.
DR. CRAWFORD: October of '54, I believe.
MR. BATES: And oh, two or three months before he died,
he was confined to his bed and he had some-
body down there call Daddy and ask him to come by. And Daddy went by
the house on Peabody and he said Mr. Crump was very, very weak. And
he said, "Bert, I asked you to come by for one reason." He said, "You
know in these last few months I've had time to do a lot of thinking
and a lot of reflecting on things that I've done." And he says, "You
know, I realize now that I let myself be mislead, for whatever reasons,
my own ego, whatever reasons, I let myself be mislead by other people."
And he said, "When I thought back about how loyal and how faithful you've
been to me and how much you've done for this community," he said, "I
realize what a horrible thing that I had done as far as you were con-
cerned." And he just said, "I hope that now that we can just both let
bygones be bygones and forget any episode that ever came between us."
And of course Daddy, you know naturally, he told him, he said,
"Mr. Crump it never changed the way I felt regardless of what you did
or what you said." Which it didn't.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did your father feel that Joe Boyle had
something to do with that change of opinion
MR. BATES: There wasn't any question in his mind. That
was the one place that he always pointed a
finger. And he never had any great deal of animosity for Boyle. I think
if he thought anything, he felt that the man was pitiful. That he
felt that Boyle's security was based on the fact that he had to stay
close to the Man. And that any attempt to push him between him or
for him to feel that anybody was closer to Mr. Crump was a threat to
his security and he would do anything. It was what he had said that
destroyed Gerber, who was Mr. Crump's right- hand man for a long time
and as long as Mr. Crump could use him. Then as soon as Gerber was
of no political use anymore Mr. Crump discarded him like an old shoe.
DR. CRAWFORD: When did that happen?
MR. BATES: That happened, as I understand it, while
Daddy was in Washington, then in the ser-
vice, which would have been ....
DR. CRAWFORD: In World War II.
MR. BATES: In World War II, I guess some place [around]
'44, '43. As I understand, the newspapers and
everybody else took a tremendous dislike for Gerber. And of course the
way Gerber was used, you couldn't help but dislike the man.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was he the hatchet man?
MR. BATES: He was the hatchet man. He was the man that
issued all the statements. Anybody they
wanted to attack, he was the man whose mouth they used. And he just
destroyed himself, never hurt Mr. Crump. When he became so unpopular
that he was of no longer any — that was one of the attributes — if that's
what you want to call attributes.
Mr. Crump, and I think any successful politician, I don't care
whether it's Franklin Roosevelt or whoever it might be. I think that
the one thing, Pendergrast, Daley, Roosevelt, Crump; the one character-
istic that they all had in common was the ability, when necessary, to
be absolutely and completely ruthless when it came to the organization.
Whenever they thought, I don't care how close a person was to them, how
loyal they'd been, how much they had accomplished; as soon as they felt
like that they were no longer politically advantageous, out they went.
DR. CRAWFORD: And you feel that Will Gerber had used up
his usefulness then?
MR. BATES: No question, no question about it, he was
DR. CRAWFORD: Who took his place?
MR. BATES: John Heiskell and he stayed there for a num-
ber of years. That was Longstreet Heiskell 's
grandson, very prominent Memphis family.
DR. CRAWFORD: He died about a year ago, didn't he?
MR. BATES: Hasn't been that long, it's been about four
months, since John died. That's another place
he was smart. That's how Daddy happened to get back in so strong is that
Mr. Crump immediately when World War II ended, all the positions —
elected positions that opened — as rapidly as he could he started
putting young veterans, always veterans, that was the pull right
after the war. And every job that opened — and you can name them
just one after the other — Commissioner of Public Service, Louie
Gresham, County Trustee, Riley Garner, County Court Clerk, John Mc-
Goldrick. All of them, I might say, came directly out of the Legion.
That's where the word came from. He'd ask Daddy, "Who do you recom-
mend? Have you got a young man we can use?" Daddy always had a
young man he could use. But Mr. Crump seemed to have an ability to
hit the right strongs at the right time.
Now, of course, I have to be on the other end too. I had to end
up on the hard part of what Mr. Crump could do. But Mr. Crump did a
lot for Memphis. There's no question about it. I mean as far as hon-
est government is concerned. But for many years Mr. Crump had every-
thing going in his favor. He had those people during the Depression
when any job was a good job. You could hand-pick men of the highest
caliber and highest quality and get them. And we hit that, as we are
right now. When pay is good it's hard to get a good attorney to be a
judge when he can make twice that much practicing law.
That reminds me, even judges back when Daddy was active and back
when I was the mayor's Executive Assistant, when the election came along,
judges hit their streets, house to house. Judges got up and hit that
platform at rallies just like any other guy that held public office. In
fact, I remember all the judges got together when Mr. Crump was still
alive and they thought it would be far more judicious of them as far
as judicial dignity was concerned if they wore robes. So they got
Perry Sellers, who was kind of the dean of, at that time — no Sam
Campbell, who was kind of the dean of the judges, he was Criminal
Court Judge, Division II and they got Sam, who was very close to Mr.
Crump and he asked Mr. Crump about it (wearing robes) and Mr. Crump
just leaned back in his chair and said, M Sam,"in that high voice and
and he lifted his eyebrows up and down and when he talked. He pursed
his mouth, "Sam, have y'all got the idea that you're Roman senators
now and you need to be wearing togas on the bench!" (Laughter) And
until he died, not one judge in Memphis ever put on a robe either.
DR. CRAWFORD: How dependent were the judges on him?
MR. BATES: Completely. What small dissident politics
that existed in Memphis — if there was such
a thing — there was never any what you'd call organized resistance.
You had isolated pockets. You might even say individuals who always
opposed the organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Like Mr. Meeman.
MR. BATES: He's. one. And I don't think he'd have been
so secure except he had so much Scripps-
Howard stock that they couldn't get rid of him as editor. There were
a number of wealthy people who, well of single individuals, who could
stand aside, particularly Republicans. But the funny thing even about
them is that on a local level when it came to local offices, the Legis-
lature, any city or county elected positions, they were always with
Mr. Crump. I've heard George W. Lee, Lt. Lee, you know — he was a
very close friend of my father's, by the way. "You know, "he said, "I
stood up for the Republicans here a long time, but," he says, "I've
been hit in the head a lot of times and run down a lot of dark alleys."
And that was the truth. That shows you how times change politically.
All the time I was growing up and all the time, I guess, my father was
growing up the only Republican Party that existed in Shelby County was
black. That was the Republican Party.
DR. CRAWFORD: What part did Robert Church have to do with
MR. BATES: Well, I guess he was per se the strongest
black political leader in Memphis. And Lee
was his right-hand man. That's where Lee got his start was because of
Bob Church. According to Daddy, who was close to both Lee and Church —
Church was really one of Crump's hinchmen. Now he was the power within
the Republican Party nationally. But locally he was one of Crump's men.
DR. CRAWFORD: But they had trouble in 1940 in the Willkie
MR. BATES: Right. That's the only time. But on national
politics, they all went Republican. And Mr.
Crump understood this, he never, he never fought this one way or the
other. He had his uses for them.
DR. CRAWFORD: It was local politics in which he needed their
MR. BATES: Right. He wasn't worried about the Democratic
Party nationally because he knew Tennessee
was gonna go Democratic anyway, no matter what the blacks did. And now
oddly enough all the blacks are solid Democratic. And the people that
built the Republican Party here, the blacks, were completely ignored
by the Republicans that came on with Eisenhower.
DR. CRAWFORD: In the change in the 1950' s.
MR. BATES: In the '50's. They were completely booted out
of the Republican Party and looked on with
disdain to the extent that they openly said, "Fitzhugh and a few of the
DR. CRAWFORD: Millsaps Fitzhugh?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh. Openly stated that we don't want
blacks. I think that many black leaders,
or what black leaders are left — I don't think we have anyone like
Bob Church — I don't think there's anyone. If there is, I'd say it would
be Maxine Smith, that even approached his standing among the blacks.
Of course, this was even fortified by Mr. Crump. I mean, Mr. Crump
had a great deal to do with making Church. Because knowingly or un-
knowingly everybody knew who Mr. Crump liked. No matter what he might
say they knew where the laying on of hands were and when they were ab-
sent. I mean, much of what Mr. Crump did was tacit, nobody knew any-
thing by word of mouth, it was just — you knew. It was just an instinc-
tive innate thing that you just knew, like you knew where everybody stood
If somebody brought somebody's name you'd say," oh yeah, he's for so-
and so." You knew these things.
DR. CRAWFORD: It seems like Memphis was a fairly small
town then where everything was so well known.
MR. BATES: Well, it was and it wasn't. It seemed like
to me, obviously , it was a small town to a
great extent because among all those people that represented a politi-
cal power base, everybody knew everybody else. I don't think today
that this power base exists openly. I do think that there's no ques-
tion — as my father if he could talk would tell you — that there's no
question that there's a handful of people in Memphis — you're probably
aware of it — that there are a handful of people both inside, mostly
outside of the political arena in private business, industry, and law
who run the city of Memphis from a political standpoint. They oper-
ate quietly but they operate very effectively that you'd be amazed
at the power that they do have and that they exercise.
DR. CRAWFORD: But now it's no longer one person as it was
MR. BATES: It's a consensus.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did this consensus develop after Mr.
MR. BATES: Well, most of these people — and I could
name a number of them — came directly out
of the organization. Either they came out of it or their fathers
came out of it. Because nobody, and I mean nobody, was anybody un-
less they got along with the organization. 'Cause if you didn't, you
left town. And there are numerous substaniated incidents of people
Dr. CRAWFORD: What were some of the instances?
MR. BATES: Well, let me see. I was trying to think of
Mayor Overton's executive assistant when he
was first mayor who later became the Commissioner of Public Service.
He was an ex-newspaperman and I know his name as well as my own but I
can't think of it.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, I've heard of him too. Did he come
from Louisiana originally?
MR. BATES: Yeah, that's right. And he stayed with
Overton, when Mr. Crump fell out with Over-
ton originally, back in the late thirties.
DR. CRAWFORD: The first falling out with Overton?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh.
DR. CRAWFORD: What was that over?
MR. BATES: Now you're not gonna believe this story,
but this is the way it went because Overton
drinking one night told me the story. They were at a football game at
Crump Stadium with Overton's second wife. Her name was Bessie Ganong.
She had been his secretary.
DR. CRAWFORD: What was her last name?
MR. BATES: Ganong, G-A-N-O-N-G, Bessie Ganong. Sup-
posedly she made the statement, they were
sitting in a box that Mr. Crump had, with I don't know who else. I
know they were politicos, obviously some of them elected. And sup-
posedly Mr. Crump came in and when he was walking down the running
track that went around Crump Stadium, Bessie said, "Here comes a
straw hat, I wonder what's under it!" and this was the whole thing.
DR. CRAWFORD: And someone told Mr. Crump about that.
MR. BATES: Said that she said that. Now Overton swears
to this, or swore till the time he died,
that this was never said. Of course, you know, Overton never really
forgave Mr. Crump for the first falling out. Overton was another
practical politician and was very ruthless in his own way. And unlike
my father, he recognized many of Mr. Crump's faults and he never for-
gave Mr. Crump for what he considered an outright slur. Because he
did not think that he deserved the treatment that he received.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, this was the first fall out in the
MR. BATES: Uh-huh . And Overton never, never felt the
same about Mr. Crump. Now he came back as
president of the school board or President of the Board of Education
and then later as mayor. But there was never the closeness or under-
standing as far as Crump was concerned as there was when he was orig-
DR. CRAWFORD: Why did he come back? Did he have any inde-
pendent standing himself or did Crump bring
him back in?
MR. BATES: Well, Crump didn't bring him, Crump was in a
position that he needed somebody. Actually,
Overton did him a favor by coming back as mayor, because he didn't have
anybody of Overton's stature to take the job. So, really Overton was
doing him a favor — and always felt that he did him a favor. Of course,
the second time that Overton resigned, Mr. Crump never expected that to
happen. That floored him! I really think it put him aback — he didn't
know what to say.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, that happened shortly before Crump's
death in '53, didn't it?
MR. BATES: Yeah.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did that happen?
MR. BATES: Well, let's see. Before the election for
mayor and city commissioner for Overton's
second term — really his fourth term, but his second term (at that
time) — he decided that he could not or would not run on a ticket with
hand-picked commissioners. Mr. Crump was adamant at first, but Over-
ton just said, "Well, then I refuse to run, but I'll run for mayor
and you get whoever you want and run him." So then they agreed that
Mr. Crump would pick two and that Overton would pick two. I think
this also points out what can happen to an individual politically.
But we had a man by the name of Frank Tobey; he was the comp-
troller. Overton had a great deal of faith in Frank, both as far
as Frank's integrity was concerned and also in his ability. He
was very taken by the man. And then Daddy suggested Buddy Dwyer
who was then the Assistant Chief of Police. I think he would have
been Chief of Police, except when they were gonna make a chief of
police^ Joe Boyle was Commissioner of Fire and Police and he was a
Roman Catholic and Mr. Crump wouldn't have two Roman Catholics in
law enforcement. So he took Claude Armour, made him Chief of Police
and made Buddy Dwyer, Assistant.
But anyway, Overton called in Tobey this was in my presence
and Riley Garner was standing there and Tobey raised his right
hand and he said, "Mr. Mayor, I consider that the highest compli-
ment I've ever had and I promise you this: if you can get me on
as one of the commissioners, I' 11 be your friend and your loyal
friend for the rest of my life." And of course, Buddy did the
same thing. Mr. Crump picked Boyle and Oscar Williams. And after
the election it hadn't been six weeks until we got the word that
Mr. Crump has been whispering in Frank Tobey' s ear, "Would you
like to be mayor? You know if we can get rid of Overton some way,
we'll slip you in there." Well, of course, I think Mr. Crump was
doing more talk than anything else and wanted it to get back to
Overton to show him that he was still the boss, you know. But
by God, Tobey took it hook, line, and sinker. H , he was the
first guy to put the knife in. He even came down and told Overton
how he stood. Of course, Overton let Frank know in a nice way ex-
actly what he thought about it, if you want to call it a nice way.
But as it turned out, every time they held a commission meeting
there were four to one against anything Overton wanted or it was
three to two. A lot of times Buddy Dwyer did vote with Overton.
DR. CRAWFORD: Who stayed with Overton all the way?
MR. BATES: Buddy as much as anybody but Buddy was
independent. He was independent. No, they
sort of elected Claude Armour, and Boyle, and Buddy and Tobey. And of
course, Buddy wasn't too wild about Claude, I mean outwardly. You'd
think they were very good friends, but they'd been competitive all
the way through the Police Department and deep down didn't really like
each other too much. But as long as Mr. Crump was alive it didn't make
any difference whether you liked somebody or didn't, you got along. He
was in reality — -we had a strong Mayor-Council form of government.
DR. CRAWFORD: The way it worked.
MR. BATES: Yeah. The way it actually operated. Be-
cause the mayor and commissioners acted as
a city council and he was a strong mayor. That's what it amounted to.
But, as I said, Mr. Crump did a lot of things for the city of Memphis.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did that break finally develop between
Overton and his deciding to resign?
MR. BATES: He just got tired of it. I tried to talk
him into staying, because I felt like that
it would work itself out. But Overton was a peculiar person. He had
a great amount of integrity. Principle meant a tremendous amount to
him. Well, he resigned literally over principle: the fundamental thing
behind the whole episode was principle. And he felt like it couldn't
be resolved as far as he was concerned, so he just resigned. He just
went in before the City Commission and said, "That's it! Y'all run it
the best . . . ." And Mr. Crump made Tobey the mayor, I might add.
And then I think Tobey literally killed himself. He was, he
was one of these poor guys that tried to be everything to every-
body, and you can't do that. You can't tell this group one thing
and then tell another group something else and stay in the middle
all the time. It's bound to catch with you. And I think physically
and mentally it caught up with him. 'Cause people have told me that
they had seen him out walking at night muttering to himself and that
sort of thing. I think it literally caught up with him. And I
think too that like the great tragedies that have been written that
Tobey was basically an honest man and a principled man and I think
when he did what he did that he betrayed himself. And I don't think
the man ever really recovered from it — that it eventually got to him
more and more. At first, the just the air itself of having the
job buoyed him and carried him for but eventually it caught up
DR. CRAWFORD: Was his case sort of like that of Mr. Plea-
MR. BATES: Mr. Crump died so we'll never know. If Mr.
Crump had lived, I'm sure it would have been
or he would have. No, I think Pleasants was due to his relationship
with Crump personally. Overton was still alive and was on the out-
side, but I don't think that Tobey ever was able to rationalize the
fact that he'd stood up and swore, to God that he was gonna be loyal
and faithful and that this was the greatest thing that ever happened
to him and then turn around and stab the man in the back. I think it
eventually got to him. I think he realized what he'd done and I don't
think he ever fully recovered from it. I say, at first he was immune.
These jobs, they all look glorious and glamorous when you're on the
outside looking in, but when you're on the inside they aren't so plea-
sant and they aren't so nice. And to be completely realistic, you
have to make decisions in whatever you do. You're not going to make
And I think the trouble is today that it's been so long since
we've had anybody like Overton or Chandler — Walter Chandler — or peo-
ple who had the — I know with Overton, he had the courage to say, "Look,
this is how it's going to be. Now if you want certain services you're
going to have to pay for them. Now, if you want better fire and po-
lice protection, it's going to cost you more or you're not going to
have it. We're going to have to increase the tax rate." Now we want
to beat around the bush and nobody wants to stand up and say anything
that they think is unpopular. I guarantee that Overton would have
stood up in a room with two thousand, ranting and raging and told
them exactly opposite to what they wanted to hear. That's exactly
what he would have done.
DR. CRAWFORD: He was motivated by principle, wasn't he?
MR. BATES: Right! I mean, he'd stand up and say, "I
know this isn't what you want to hear,
but this is the way it's going to be or you just as soon go on home."
But he was exactly that way.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was he a little too independent to get
along well in the Crump era?
MR. BATES: I think so. I think this was probably
his downfall politically was that he was
too independent. The odd thing was Overton was willing to listen
to Mr. Crump and on most things they could agree. But Crump, I think
in his latter years, became where he couldn't stand any criticism. I
mean, I don't caie how it was given he just — you were gone. I mean,
he didn't want you around. The only people he wanted around were
people that agreed with the way he thought. Like when Riley Garner
and I myself were handed the ward organization 'cause of Overton.
Mr. Crump gave it to Overton 'cause he was afraid we were going to
lose a candidate. And here we were in constant touch with every
ward in the city every day. We called, we talked to every ward
leader every day. And I knew what reports I was getting out of the
DR. CRAWFORD: What election was this?
MR. BATES: I don't remember. I think it was '50.
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you remember who was running?
MR. BATES: I sure don't. But I knew what reports I
was getting out of the black community.
There was a man by the name of Norman Moore, who was an investigator
for the Attorney General and ran the Mile-of-Dimes, the Christmas Bas-
ket Fund for the Commercial Appeal . I took it over after he died and
had it for twelve years. But Mr. Crump thought Norman was very close
to the blacks. Mr. Crump called me down there and asked me what I was
hearing from the wards and I told him that we were not gonna get any
solid black votes! And he said, "Well, when you say solid, what do
And I said, "Well, we'll be lucky if we get a 70-30.
"Well," he said (mumbles) "You can't possibly be right. I've
talked to Norman Moore and Norman Moore says they are solidly behind
I said, "Mr. Crump, I can't help what Norman Moore says, I don't
know how close Norman Moore is, I'm telling you the reports we get,
that's all I'm telling you." And as it turned out we got about, a
little better than, I think we got about 75-25. But he didn't want
to hear that. He preferred to listen to Norman who was saying what
he thought Mr. Crump wanted to hear. So actually Mr. Crump really
wasn't getting information that he needed to get.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did that get to be a problem, being sur-
rounded by people who told him what he
wanted instead of how things were?
MR. BATES: I think that's entirely correct. It boiled
down to where he was listening to people
like Joe Boyle and Bob Fredericks and they were saying what Mr. Crump
wanted to hear. And of course, the first thing Overton told me when
I went up there as his Executive Assistant that he said, "Now look,
when I ask you something I want an honest answer." "'Cause" he said,
"I can hire five-thousand guys to come in here and agree with every-
thing I say." He said, "I need a guy that's gonna tell me the truth
about what's going on." And I always did, but whether he liked it or
whether he didn't like it. I told him what the facts were, the way
I thought and we didn't always agree on everything, but Overton never
held that against you. I mean, you could take your side of anything
and he could see your side as well as he could his. And a lot of
times he changed his mind about it. But Mr. Crump got where he would-
n't change his mind about anything. If he made up his mind that that's
the way it was, by golly that's the way it was going to be or you were-
n't going to be there, one or the other.
DR. CRAWFORD: Another strong man around was Senator Mc-
Kellar. How did the two stand?
MR. BATES: You know, either talking to Daddy or any-
one else, you can never really understand.
My personal feeling, that I saw evidence both in Daddy's case and others
was that Senator McKellar was dependent, or felt that he was dependent
on Mr. Crump to be elected. Now I understand at an earlier date that
it was kind of a mutual Ken and Ed, but as the years went on and Mc-
Kellar got older this relationship developed more of dependency and
reliance than it was of mutual understanding. Well, I'm positive in
my own mind that's the way it was. I know on Daddy's resignation Mc-
Kellar never came down here and made an issue out of it with Crump.
DR. CRAWFORD: That was during the Browning election, I
believe in '35?
MR. BATES: Right, right, when he could have.
DR. CRAWFORD: And your father had been considered Mc-
Kellar's protege, hadn't he?
MR. BATES: And I would say almost the son — a father-
son relationship. They were that close.
DR. CRAWFORD: Still McKellar did not come down and buck
Mr. Crump at that time.
MR. BATES: Not only did he not come down, he didn't
make a call and he didn't write a letter.
In fact, when Daddy called him, he didn't say don't resign, he just
said, "I'm sorry to hear that," and left it at that. So obviously he
didn't want to cross Mr. Crump about that particular issue. As
far as I know, he never crossed him about any issue. And then when
McKellar was running against Gore, Mr. Crump never went all out for
McKellar because he thought McKellar was going to get beaten and so
did we. Even we people that were supporting him felt like he had
reached that age where he wasn't effective anymore. He certainly
wasn't an effective campaigner. Let me put it that way. And just
that difference of age beat him, literally. There's no ifs, ands
or buts about it.
DR. CRAWFORD: Let's see, Estes Kefauver was elected to
the Senate in '48. Do you remember what
year Gore made it? Would that have been about two years later?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh . 'Cause I was in that campaign
with Gore and I wasn't with Kefauver. I
worked in headquarters, but I wasn't in the campaign. And there, if
Mr. Crump had listened to reason, everybody was encouraging him to
go with Stewart and we went and picked some guy over here in Cooke-
ville, John. ... He was a circuit court judge. He'd been in World
War I with Colonel Waring and they were close personal friends. And
he b rough: him over here and introduced him to Mr. Crump. And the
only thing he carried was Shelby County.
Was it Mitchell, perhaps?
John Mitchell. Uh-huh, that's right. That's
correct. Very nice person.
What do you think Mr. Crump's mistake was
in that campaign?
There again he had listened to these people.
Now the way Daddy tells the story (he liked
Tom Stewart very much) but Tom was the type of guy that wasn' t gonna
take anything, according to what I hear. I didn't know Tom Stewart.
But Daddy said he was a happy-go-lucky sort of guy. He was glad to
be the United States Senator as long as it didn't involve too much ef-
fort. I understand he was independently wealthy and it was a nice
place and it was a nice club to belong to and he enjoyed it while he
was there. And actually in that election if you had given Stewart
the votes out of Shelby County that Mitchell got he would have beaten
Kefauver going away. Kefauver won on the votes he got out of Shelby
Do you know why Mr. Crump did not go with
Stewart but supported Mitchell instead that
MR. BATES: Just the talk that when he did not think that
Stewart was doing the job that he thought
he should do and had publicly stated this. And Stewart openly said
he really didn't care what Mr. Crump thought.
DR. CRAWFORD: It would have been hard for them to get
together then after that. Why was Mr.
Crump so opposed to Kefauver? I know what he said in the adver-
tisements, but what did he really think of him?
MR. BATES: I don't think he thought anything of him
except he was trying to beat Mr. Crump.
I think in all possibility had Mr. Crump decided to endorse him,
Kefauver would have jumped right in bed with Mr. Crump. In fact,
as I understand it he approached Mr. Crump long before he ever ran
for United States Senator asking for his support.
DR. CRAWFORD: That would be sort of routine before making
a state-wide race, wouldn't it?
MR. BATES: Why certainly. Now, I'm sure that Kefauver
who became one of Meeman's closest friends,
would have told Meeman to go jump in the lake if Crump had said, "Sure
you've got our support, go ahead and run." 'Cause that was paramount
to being elected, back then. But as things happened, I think Mr. Crump
honestly felt like, or everybody felt like, he was going to support
Stewart and that he did not want to get out on a limb with anybody
until he had definitely made up his mind what he was going to do.
And now that wasn't the only election. It's just like I told you
about Browning. Mr. Crump could be capricious now. He could change
his mind in twenty-four hours. When this guy (his name was Allen
from Nashville), I forget what the heck he was running for, but he
ran state-wide, later became tax-assessor.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was this Cliff Allen?
MR. BATES: Cliff Allen. And we got the word, four
hours before the polls opened, in the mid-
dle of the night that we were going to go for Allen. And heck, here
we were the next day running around in cars now, everybody had hit
the streets, everybody had so many wards to go to tell the ward boss
to tell the people this is how we were voting.
DR. CRAWFORD: Let's see, do you remember what Cliff
Allen was running for then?
I really can't.
Did he make it?
No, he didn't. He didn't make it.
Well, it was a little late to start the
Yeah. But that's how Mr. Crump was.
Well, you know it had gotten in state
politics where Mr. Crump didn't wield that big a stick anymore.
After Kefauver, his influence over the state took a radical change
actually. Although he still never lost Shelby County.
DR. CRAWFORD: I don't understand the. . . .
MR. BATES: But in that Kefauver election he began to
lose the black votes that he'd always had
solid up till that time. And that's where it began to slip.
DR. CRAWFORD: I don't understand the financing of the
machine. Evidentally, it took a lot of money
to run it. How was that managed?
MR. BATES: Well, in a lot of different ways. Now
I don't know at the beginning of the organ-
ization because I wasn't around. In fact, there are very few people
that I know or knew that are now dead that were very conversant about
the financial end of the organization. This is one end that Mr. Crump
almost held in his hand, the money.
DR. CRAWFORD: DO you know of anyone that he ever dele-
gated that to?
MR. BATES: NO. I know who would dole out the money at
election time for the poll workers. I know
that was Francis Andrews. But whether Andrews knew what was in the bank,
I don't know. Now when it came to election time when I was connected
with it, you had guys like Will Fowler, he was the City Engineer. Okay,
you set out here and you operated any engineering business, anything.
I don't care whether you were a structural engineer, a civil engineer,
if you had any contracts with the city, which all of them depended on
contracts from the city, and state and county to operate. Just like
architects, they did too. They depended on the city, and county, and
state for — that's the only big money in architecture is public buildings.
And you didn't get any unless Mr. Crump pointed and said give this to
Now that's one thing we did in the Mayor's office, whenever it
came to any large architectural job. Names were thrown out and gone
over and he would set down with Mr. Crump, went over the names and
said, "Which one are we going to take this time?" For a while there
it was Walk Jones got everything we did. Anyway, when election time
came, out would go Will Fowler. He'd call on every contractor. We
were handed cards, you know, with the firm's name, how many people
in the firm, how much they had given in the last campaign, and how
much was expected to be given in this campaign.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was it often increased a little?
MR. BATES: Always. All the time I was there it was
always increased. Now, I don't know
what luck the other people had. I never missed. (laughter) You just
went in to see the guy and laid it out and that was it.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now that was the contractors and the
MR. BATES: Oh, we called on everybody 'cause my Daddy
was in the automobile business and I called
on automobile dealers.
DR. CRAWFORD: And all kinds of businesses contributed
Everybody that I know of contributed. I
don't know who didn't.
Now, are you talking about businesses or
individuals or both?
I'm talking about individuals, attorneys,
doctors. They were worked just like every-
body else. Your businesses were all worked I don't care whether you
were in the automobile business, whether you were in the contracting
business, I don't care what business you were in, you were called. I
don't care if you were in the blue-print supply business, if you did
any work for the city you got called on, brother! If you were in the
office supply business, you got called on — didn't make any difference;
plumbing business, you got called on. And you gave. Either that or
when you needed a favor you couldn't find one. And when you got some
man that's sitting up here over everything and when I say over every-
thing, I mean like an octopus with his tennacles out.
If you were sitting up here and you were, say in the building,
construction business, building houses out here-who you got to depend
on? You got to depend on that City Inspector that comes along and says,
"Your electrical work looks all right." "Your plumbing work looks all
right." "You: footage looks [good], go ahead." But if you didn't go
along, then say an inspector came out there and said, "I don't think
those footings are quite deep enough." Or you'd get the whole damn
frame up and then the electrical inspector would come by and say,
"I don't think this meets the standards, now lets look at this thing
again." Why, you'd never get through with anything.
That's like if you were in the automobile business. We knew,
hell, the assessor knew what he had you assessed at. And he knew
that, like at Chip Barwick's when I was office manager, we knew how
much we had in inventory out there and we knew what the ad valorem
tax was. Why, we'd carry sometimes three million dollars worth of
inventory and they had us down on ad volorem for twenty-five thou-
sand. What the hell — if I didn't contribute, the assessor would drop
by the next time and he'd say, "Why, good G — man, you've got two
million dollars worth of inventory out there."
DR. CRAWFORD: So your taxes. . . .
MR. BATES: So what do you think we're gonna do when
he comes by and asks us for five hundred
dollars. You think we're gonna say, "no"! You think if you're sitting
out here owning a liquor store — I'm gonna hit all the liquor stores
for the organization. Daddy did that awhile or he was over the liquor
stores for the organization. They come out to you as an individual
and we may have you down for a hundred dollars and you say, "I can't
give but twenty-five." Well, right after the election's over, it
just happens that every time the police stop they stop right in front
of your store and sit there waiting for a call. Well, nobody is going
to walk in your store — there's not a black in Memphis that would walk
in a liquor store with a police car sitting in front of it. I'll guar-
antee it! They knew this. I mean, there's nothing to raise money if
you've got the control and Mr. Crump had the control. It was a simple
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, you say people had to contribute then?
MR. BATES: Well, let's put it this way. They felt like
it was necessary business expense. And I
never knew anybody that was particularly unhappy about contributing.
They always told me they were happy to give.
DR. CRAWFORD: They might as well be.
MR. BATES: Yeah, I think so, what else?
DR. CRAWFORD: And they generally operated successfully,
made a profit, didn't they?
MR. BATES: Certainly. Absolutely. And Mr. Crump ran
the right atmosphere for them to as far as
money was concerned. He went in an honest, law-abiding and good public
service; nobody could complain about this town. That's another thing
he and Overton fell out about. Overton signed the contract with TVA
without Crump's okay, when the city bought out the Memphis Power and
DR. CRAWFORD: Did that involve the Allen Steam Plant?
MR. BATES: No, this was long before — this is when we
first went into the business. See the water
plant was separately owned — we bought that out first. That was long be-
fore Overton was ever there.
DR. CRAWFORD: That was before the first break Overton had?
MR. BATES: That was when it really broke wide open,
after the statement Bessie made. That's
when it really broke wide open, when he bought the electric company
and went on TVA without Mr. Crump's approval. He signed a contract
with TVA before he talked to Mr. Crump about it. That's when they
named that alley November 15th, that's when they signed the TVA con-
DR. CRAWFORD: Thirty-four, I believe that was.
MR. BATES: Yeah. And Overton didn't last. He went
out right after that. You know those
things work ironically sometimes. Browning, who detested Crump, I
mean literally. It was mutual but they both absolutely detested
each other. Like Mr. Crump accusing him of milking the cow between
the pickets on the fence and all that kind of stuff. But Browning,
when he went back in the second time, beat Mr. Crump the same time
that Kefauver did.
DR. CRAWFORD: Kefauver did?
MR. BATES: Right. But he was in office when I was
down there with the Mayor. And because
Overton fell out with Crump, just before they decided to run again,
Browning got the word and he calls Overton, in my presence, on the
phone. He said, "You know we got all this Federal money to improve
these Federal highways," and he said, "You know I never could stand
Crump," And he said, "Just out," said, "Watkins", he said (they'd
been in the Legislature together, he and Browning). And he did, he
completely resurfaced Poplar and Lamar, built the overpass at Central
and Parkway. He spent millions in here and everytime Overton would
issue the statement that it was gonna be done — never went through
Crump. He was left out.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did Mr. Crump feel?
MR. BATES: So the City of Memphis actually benefitted.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did Mr. Crump feel about that — these
statements not coming through him.
MR. BATES: Ses it never came through Mr. Crump, but
he'd put it through who he wanted. Usually
it came through Fowler, but it didn't go through the mayor. If you got
anything like street or sewage or any of that sort of thing, flood con-
trol or anything like that it came through the City Engineer.
DR. CRAWFORD: What did Mr. Fowler have to do with the
Expressway system? You know it's named
MR. BATES: Oh, I'd give him credit for developing
it period. There's no question in my
mind as far as Will Fowler was concerned. He was a fine City Engineer
and there's a man that started with nothing. He just started as a
clerk in the Public Works Department and became City Engineer. I
think it's truthfully said that he was one of the few people that
you could say there's a break in the water line or gas line or sewage
line and he was one of the few people that had it in his head what
intersection you could go to and find out where that leak was . He
had been at it so long. I think we made only one mistake. Well, it's
obvious now we made a mistake. We should have put 40 through before
we put the peripheral in.
DR. CRAWFORD: It could have been done then?
MR. BATES: Yes, if he'd of gone right on with 40,
which Overton wanted to do. If we'd
have gone on with that, it's been done and out of the way. You know
it's a funny thing about people. I think that's the thing that strikes
me. Do you remember the Parkway like it used to be--little two - lane,
narrow. . . . with trees on both sides?
DR. CRAWFORD: No.
MR. BATES: Well, you couldn't pass a car on the Park-
way. North Parkway was so narrow, on each
side you had a narrow strip over here, then you had a great big center
strip with these huge oak trees, and then a little narrow strip on this
side. And they called it "Suicide Lane".
DR. CRAWFORD: That was the old "Speedway", wasn't it?
MR. BATES: Yeah, and when Overton got the money from
the state government, we widened that thing.
And boy, those people fought us like crazy out there on Parkway. And
then after it was done, you couldn't get them, you know they were
constantly [saying] , "What a beautiful street it was". "How lovely
it was having all that away from them." People used to call in the
office I never will forget the perversity of people. We were widen-
ing Macon Road, and we took the bus service off and moved it one street
over, and all the people on that street were calling complaining about
the bus coming down their street. You'd say, "Well, what do you wanna
do?" [They'd say], "Well, I don't care about the people back there.
Just get it off our street!" Like Overton used to say, "Everybody
wants a convenient bus stop as long as it's not in front of their house."
But Mr. Crump was, as I said he was .... just apparent, an enig-
ma, there's no ah — he could be all things to himself. He could be grac-
ious, indulgent, kind, generous and then he could turn around and just
be as cold as ice.
DR. CRAWFORD: It must have been hard for people to fig-
MR. BATES: I don't think anybody ever did!
I don't think anybody ever did! They
knew this they knew that punishment could be swift and vindictive.
They knew that. That was one thing they were well aware of.
DR. CRAWFORD: What about the people that worked for him,
did any of them stay with him all the way
through? I know a lot of people came and went.
MR. BATES: Yeah. You can think of numerous examples —
people like Dusty Miller, who was City
Clerk and later became Commissioner of Public Service. Will Fowler,
Oscar Williams, and I can think of even people like my father, though
he was on the outside, was still a part of the organization. Will
Gerber never deviated. He always stayed part of the organization.
DR. CRAWFORD: Even after they dropped him?
MR. BATES: Even after they dropped him. You can think
of business people, Sam Bates — Judge Bates,
Probate Judge who became the president of the Commerce Title Company.
General Cook, Everett Cook, they were all part of the organization and
had been for a lifetime, never deviated. After General Cook became in-
active in the business, Dad was just as active as far as the organiza-
tion was concerned as the old man had been. And you could go on and on-
George Houston of Mid-South, his whole family. We had generations that
know absolutely nothing but Mr. Crump. And we had generations of office
holders and people that literally couldn't think for themselves. Now
this to me was he stifled all other political thoughts.
DR. CRAWFORD: That's what Lucius Burch says, you know.
MR. BATES: Well, that's correct. That's correct.
He to a great extent stifled the growth
of Memphis. Where Houston grew, and Dallas grew and Atlanta grew;
Memphis stayed what Mr. Crump wanted it to stay. Now that's not
taking away from the good things he did, but he held it where he
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you think this might partly be be-
cause he came from Holly Springs and his
idea of a town was based on something small?
MR. BATES: I don't know.
DR. CRAWFORD: And from the old days?
MR. BATES: I don't know. I know a vivid recollection
in a minute: We were having serious traf-
fic problems in the early fifties and I remember going down with the
mayor to talk to Mr. Crump. And Mr. Crump said, he just leaned back
in that chair and he said, "Watkins, I just don't understand that."
He (Mr. Crump) had a chauffeur and he didn't come in until ten o'clock.
He said, "When I come to work, we just come right on down Peabody, right
on down, right straight down, to the office and when I go home (that was
at 2:30 in the afternoon) we don't have a bit of trouble there." That
was the end of worrying about the traffic situation. But that's why
he stymied a lot of things, progressive thing that could have been
done. And he stymied a lot of political thought that would have ex-
panded this city.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, if he did not allow people to grow
above a certain level in everything. . . .
MR. BATES: That's right. You just didn't have this
progressive thought back in government as
a moving force. There wasn't any such thing. Government only moved
when Mr. Crump said, "Move." When he said, "Gee" or "Haw", that was
government. Now if he took interest in any specific thing, like the
bridge, it was all out. You know, everybody, McKellar, all the congress-
men, the governor, everybody and he usually got what he wanted.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did he feel about that bridge not
being named for him?
MR. BATES: He didn't want it named for him.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was he opposed to it?
MR. BATES: Look, they were going to name it for him
and he did not want it. Good Lord, every-
thing else in Memphis was named after him; the hospital, in fact, I
guess if he'd have said it, we'd have named every other street E. H.
Crump Street, Boulevard, Avenue, Alley whatever, you know. But as I
say, Crump Stadium was named after him. If this stadium had been built
in his lifetime, I'm sure it would have been E. H. Crump Stadium.
DR. CRAWFORD: The Halle Stadium out here?
MR. BATES: No, the Memorial Stadium.
DR. CRAWFORD: Oh, yes.
MR. BATES: Unless you actually operated within the
structure you really weren't aware how
confined it actually was. It wasn't near as apparent to the people
on the outside.
DR. CRAWFORD: Because it seemed to run smoothly.
MR. BATES: Right. Correct. As it was on the inside.
DR. CRAWFORD: Suppose someone had a new idea though, or
something progressive from another city.
What would happen in a case like that?
MR. BATES: I don't ever remember it coming up. I
honestly don't. Although we solicited
ideas from other cities, I don't remember any implementation based
on any study that was ever made while I was connected with it. I
think the one period that we really expanded and were moving was dur-
ing the Depression when we were fortunate enough through McKellar's
strength and through the efforts of Overton who spent ninety per cent
of his time in Washington. I guess we got more PWA and public monies
than any other city in the United States. I guess they did more with
those monies than any other city. Now I'm talking about flood con-
trol; they did all of that on public monies — Crump Stadium, all pub-
lic monies — streets, all public monies. Everything! They got more
money fron WPA and PWA I think they figured than any other city of
larger size even than Memphis. He could just milk that till.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, it was spent honestly.
MR. BATES: No question. No question about it.
DR. CRAWFORD: For he did keep honest people.
MR. BATES: Absolutely. And if you weren't, you
didn't stay. That's for sure.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did he get rid of any people — did he have
to get rid of any people for dishonesty?
MR. BATES: Oh yeah. You're not going to operate any-
thing, I don't care whether it's a private
business or what. I wouldn't even mention any names. I'm familiar
with two or three cases myself. They did this now; he made them put
the money back.
DR. CRAWFORD : And then they left?
MR. BATES: And then they resigned. That's correct.
But it was done in two cases to my know-
ledge. And it was done even as far back as my daddy's time. In fact,
one guy — well I'll mention his name because he'd dead and long gone —
Tony Walsh — took him for about two hundred thousand dollars.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did the newspapers get hold of that?
MR. BATES: No.
DR. CRAWFORD: What did Mr. Crump do in that case?
MR. BATES: I have no idea. But you know, the funny
thing about the newspapers — he always
said you know if the newspapers ever supported him, he'd go out and
throw a brick through the window.
DR. CRAWFORD: If they did what?
MR. BATES: If the newspapers ever went along with
everything he said that he'd go out and
throw a brick through the window. Now for years he had great com-
petency in individuals that he selected for office, but in the later
years we ended up with some fairly mundane selections, mediocre be-
cause he knew that he had control over them.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was it partly a matter too of good people
being available early in the Depression and
hard to find after that?
MR. BATES: I think so.
DR. CRAWFORD: And then of course, he was older as you
get into the later period of time.
MR. BATES: Uh-huh, that's right. And you know, Mr.
Crump always held the pay of public of-
ficials down. Good Lord! When I became Executive Assistant to the
Mayor, the Mayor of the City of Memphis didn't make but $7500 a year
and the commissioners made $6,000. That was nothing. I mean, where
could you get really a competent person to work? I mean, you had to be
a wealthy person to even consider it! Or need it — one or the other.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was he thinking in terms of the past or
MR. BATES: Well, he just always thought that the more
you paid people the more attractive that
job became to anybody that might want to run for public office; which
is correct. You know, I have to laugh about my own job. I keep tel-
ling these people that keep boosting the money up constantly that
they're making it awfully attractive to get somebody to run against
DR. CRAWFORD: And Mr. Crump did not want these posi-
tions to be too attractive for there
would be too much pressure from outside people to get in.
MR. BATES: No, no.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, he took no money himself?
MR. BATES: None. Not after he left office.
DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Crump became extremely wealthy. How
did he do that?
MR. BATES: Of course he made the money. I think
what started him off is when he was
County Trustee and all of your officers at that time, your county
officers Trustee, County Court Clerk, Collector of Delinquent Taxes-
all operated on a fee basis. And of course, the trustee was respon-
sible for the collection of all the taxes in Shelby County. And it's
my understanding that above the operation of the office, which he had
to pay before he took any fees out — that ten per cent of whatever was
collected — Mr. Crump made any place from $60,000 to $80,000 a year.
And that $60,000 to $80,000 was before there was an income tax.
DR. CRAWFORD: And that was a time when money was worth
a great deal more.
MR. BATES: That's correct. I imagine $60,000 back
then was about like $600,000 is right now.
And he was able to step right out of there and go into the insurance
business. And the odd thing is that as soon as he left the Trustee's
Office that was the endo of the fee system in Shelby County. We im-
mediately had a private act passed that all of the officials that got
paid on a salary basis rather a fee basis.
DR. CRAWFORD: So it lasted only while he was there?
MR. BATES: That's correct. Well, it had gone on for
But it ended when he left?
It ended when he went out. Yeah, that's
What about his great success in insurance
business? He did not solicit business
from public employees, did he?
MR. BATES: None. No, I'm not saying that you didn't
have officials that didn't have car insur-
ance or fire insurance on their homes, but he never took one nickel's
worth of public insurance. That was another list when you were talking
about raising money. That was a great source of revenue — insurance
DR. CRAWFORD: They contributed heavily too?
MR. BATES: Yeah, they were all lined up at the begin-
ning of every year on the renewal of poli-
cies. All the companies were listed and went right down the line. The
biggest contributors got the biggest part of the insurance business. I
DR. CRAWFORD: What size contributions did business make
then? I know it would be smaller than today,
MR. BATES: Oh yeah. Well, you say small , many of them
gave a thousand, twenty-five hundred, five
thousand. Some of them gave pretty good money. It must have been up
in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There could be no other ans-
wer. Bound to have been. Because we ran full slates of candidates,
legislature, judges, judiciary, county officers, city and everything
out of the same kitty.
What expenses were involved in that? You
had to buy poll taxes for some people?
Well, we didn't when I was connected be-
cause you had to have a poll tax, but
then shortly thereafter it was done away with by the legislature. But
when my daddy was coming along, now they gave poll taxes, paid for
them out of the campaign fund for those people that they wanted to,
blacks particularly. They paid for their poll taxes. Of course,
they might vote in six different wards and precincts, but they paid
for their poll taxes. As I recall it, the way Daddy tells it, each
one of them were given so many poll tax books to sell. They also
knew who to sell them to and who not to sell them to. If they knew
anybody on their block was anti, they wouldn't sell him a poll tax.
He had to go down to the court house and get his poll tax. As a
result, a lot of them didn't have poll taxes.
But those who would support the organi-
zation got their poll taxes?
Well, without accepting any public in-
surance, where did Mr. Crump get his in-
MR. BATES: Well, number one, they were a cracker jack
company. I mean as far as I know, and
what I know about the insurance business would rattle around in a
chicken's hollow tooth. But he got the best possible people in the
insurance business for all facets of the insurance business. And
then when his sons came along, I know that E.H. Jr. was a crackerjack,
literally and that's when they really became big because they were the
largest insurance brokers in the South. All over the South they were
the largest insurance brokers. And you figure just people that wanted
to stay in with the organization, that was just like any other thing.
Who are you going to give your business to? Although they didn't
DR. CRAWFORD: It came to them.
MR. BATES: My father till this day has never done
business with anybody but E.H. Crump and
Company his whole life.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, the company was strong enough to
treat its customers well, wasn't it?
MR. BATES: No question . . . They gave, and still do
give the finest service as far as I'm con-
cerned here in the city of Memphis. And built themselves on that rep-
utation. No questions asked. And that's just like when they had the
hail storm here that damaged so many roofs. I was in the service then,
but they said that E. H. Crump and Company called in adjustors from
all over the country and just went in writing them checks just as fast
as they could. And no other company in Memphis did it, but they did.
DR. CRAWFORD: It's a strong company.
MR. BATES: Yeah. That's exactly right.
DR. CRAWFORD: What about other monies to finance the
MR. BATES: When the old man died, you never saw such
a scramble by the insurance business here,
trying to grab business away from them. And they have hurt them. A lot
of business left E.H. Crump and Company that never would have left them
when the old man was alive. Business is where the big insurance is.
DR. CRAWFORD: What about other financing for the organ-
ization? What about organized vice in
Memphis, did that pay off?
MR. BATES: Certainly. They operated the town, wide
open and then six or seven months before
and election they'd close, put the lid on, close it down. But there
again, my daddy who had been a law enforcement officer and particularly
Prohibition Agent, I guess he knew every law violator and bootlegger
in Shelby County. He was what they called the "bag man." That's
the people he called on. And they had people that called on the houses
of prostitution, just like they had people that called on pharmacists
and people that called on doctors and people that called on architects.
They were part of the businesses. Maybe they gave a little bit more
liberally than the others, but they contributed. But you know, that's
a funny thing about that. You know the old saying: "It's an ill-wind
that blows no good." A very close friend, well one of my best friends,
Bruns McCarroll,who went on the Police Department under Overton and
became an Assistant Chief, says that when they operated houses of pros-
titution wide open, had a red light district down off Mulberry behind
the Chisca Hotel down there. That was still running when I was still
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, that was on Mulberry.
MR. BATES: Uh-huh. Well, it was right back of the
Chisca. But he said that when he was
sitting up there as Inspector of Police, if anything happened--if they
had a robbery or a murder — it wouldn't be forty-eight hours until one
of the Madams would call and say, "Two guys were down here drinking
the other night and they were talking to each other and one of them
said, 'So and so had heard . . . . ' " You got all kinds of leads from
them. Small cases you could almost wrap up some of them in four hours.
A call from a whore house, "So and So is down here and he's bragging
about knocking over So and So's place of business." They just went
down there and picked him up. 3runs said when they dried all that up;
there went all their contacts. (Laughter)
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, all of that was cleaned up in the late
thirties, wasn't it after the death of Mr.
Crump's son in the crash of the Commercial Appeal plane?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh. John.
DR. CRAWFORD: And was that where Joe Boyle got his name
MR. BATES: Yeah. That's how he was Commissioner of
Fire and Police.
DR. CRAWFORD: They hadn't called him "Holy Joe" before,
MR. BATES: No. They told him to lock them up and he
locked them up. And they literally ran.
You couldn't find a prostitute in the city of Memphis. I don't care
where you went. And all the gamblers, they popped them too.
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you know why Mr. Crump changed so rapid-
MR. BATES: It's a mere supposition and primarily
based on what I've heard and what I've
been told. But some people honestly feel like that he was like Jim-
my Carter being reborn. That he actually felt like that this was some
type of retribution that he was receiving. Because John happened to
be his favorite. He was the hand picked [heir]; he was the only son
that was ever interested in politics. And he was the most outgoing,
gregarious member of the family. Everybody liked John and he was
obviously the heir apparent. And that when he died it hit Mr. Crump
so strongly that he felt this feeling that this was an effort on be-
half of the Lord to show him that Memphis wasn't going in the right
direction or something to this effect. It's never happened to me,
but I've heard other people talk about how these things strike — I
don't know. But it was strong enough that overnight the word went
out — "put the lid on." "That's the end of it here." And it was.
DR. CRAWFORD: And that's what Joe Boyle did?
MR. BATES: Joe Boyle did just exactly what Mr. Crump
told him to do. That's just like when
they put in Anti-Noise Ordinance in some other cities and they said
people will not blow your horns and that was a lot of hooey. When
it came to this town and Mr. Crump said, "We're going to have an Anti-
Noise Ordinance and I don't like this horn-blowing that's going on a-
round here. I want it stopped." In two weeks it stopped. Because
if you blew your horn you got arrested. The newspapers will tell you.
It was unbelievable that a man could actually stop horn-blowing in the
city. He stopped it.
DR. CRAWFORD: What about the loss of all the money when
they closed down prostitution and gambling?
How was that?
MR. BATES: I doubt if it meant that much to them in
the long run. They were so entrenched
then, I doubt really if Mr. Crump had to raise money every time we had
it. We. raised it, but I don't think it was necessary. I don't think
they ever spent — and I have always wondered what happened to that money,
DR. CRAWFORD: Have you ever heard anything about a secret
room in the basement where the money and
records were kept?
MR. BATES: Yeah.
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you think it really existed?
MR. BATES: No. There was a room, it wasn't in the
basement. It was on the first floor and it
was originally where the custodian's office is. And that's where
everybody went to get their payoffs for the ward workers and whatever
you were going to need on Election Day.
DR. CRAWFORD: Was that in Mr. Crump's building?
MR. BATES: No, that was in the Courthouse. And
you went in and stood in line and they
handed you the money in cash, five dollar bills and one dollar bills
and you signed for it.
DR. CRAWFORD: But you had heard stories though about
a room somewhere underneath concreted in?
MR. BATES: That money was kept in a bank, you can
bet on that. Mr. Crump would never put
money where they could get their hands on it. No way that they would
keep that much cash around anywhere. They paid by check to the news-
paper, the radio, but they had the money. In fact, money was really
no object. For other people like myself, when you run for office you
have to worry about getting out and raising the money. All the time
that Mr. Crump was in his heyday, which extended for a couple of dec-
ades, no candidates that ever ran worried about money. I doubt if it
was ever mentioned. It was never mentioned around me.
DR. CRAWFORD: They just took care of it.
MR. BATES: That was it. If you were on the ticket,
the only trouble you had was getting on
the ticket. Once you were selected and had the laying on of hands,
you didn't worry about anything. You didn't even worry about making
a public statement, anything. You were on the ticket!
DR. CRAWFORD: They did have speeches made didn't they
in the campaign?
MR. BATES: Uh-huh. Supporting a slate. Usually they
were laudatory remarks about Mr. Crump.
That's what they usually consisted of. I never will forget — oh what
was his name — Beverly Boushe. He was an Assistant City Attorney
when I first knew him. He had been a dispatcher at the Police De-
partment. And old Bev was — there's no question about it — he was a
personality boy, personality plus. And after every election — they
had a policeman at each polling place — and as soon as the polls closed
the votes were counted the policeman that was there on duty phoned
the results into headquarters. And we kept a big board there in
that big round rotunda there in the police station where all this
was written down as it came in. And Mr. Crump would always come
over there on election night. And Overton and I had gotten there a
little early and Mr. Crump came in and Beverly was sitting there with
And when Mr. Crump came in he started gushing and he said, "Oh,
Mr. Crump, tell them that story that you told about So and So," some
kind of joke. And Mr. Crump told it and everybody dutifully laughed,
you know. And then another group came in and Beverly jumped up and
said, "Oh, Mr. Crump, tell them that story about So and So." And Mr.
Crump got up and told the story again and everybody dutifully laughed.
The third time Beverly jumped up and said, "Oh, Mr. Crump tell
them that story," and Overton turned to me and said, "Come on, it's
time for us to leave." (Laughter)
DR. CRAWFORD: Three times was enough.
MR. BATES: Three times was enough for him.
DR. CRAWFORD: But he was more independent than usual?
MR. BATES: Oh, yeah, absolutely. In fact, when I
first went in the mayor's office, I don't
ever remember Mr. Crump calling about anything. He just let the mayor
run it and nothing was said. I'm sure, not to my knowledge, but I'm
sure that he consulted with Mr. Crump about numerous things, but I
never knew it to be obvious. As far as I know, day to day operation
of the government was just handled. Nothing was ever said to any-
body. It was only on decisions concerning policy as far as I know
and when I say policy, I mean general policy nothing, -day to day op-
eration information, or anything of that type.
DR. CRAWFORD: About a few other people in the organ-
ization, what happened to Frank Rice?
MR. BATES: Well, the only thing I know is he died.
He retired. He was a Collector of De-
linquent Taxes, don't know how many jobs Mr. Rice held. All of
them, to a great extent, he never did anything but run the ward or-
ganization and I think he had a lot to do with the financing of it
too. In fact, Rice, well, next to Mr. Crump was the next most power-
ful man in Shelby County.
DR. CRAWFORD: About when did he retire though?
MR. BATES: In the early thirties. And he died right
after he retired.
DR. CRAWFORD: He was there fairly early and he managed
legislative relations for. . . .
MR. BATES: For years and years.
DR. CRAWFORD: He would be the one to go to Nashville
and direct ....
MR. BATES: And he was the man that you saw. He would
do things off hand. Now if Mr. Crump wanted
somebody given a job, he'd call Rice and tell him to do it but Rice
could do it on his own too. And Daddy always said, you know that there
was one thing about Mr. Rice that whatever he said he'd give you a
definite answer. If you asked him something, he'd say yes, or no,
and that's exactly what it was. There was no, "I'll see what I can
do," or he'd say, "Yes," or he'd say, "No." And that was it.
DR. CRAWFORD: That was unusual for someone in a posi-
tion like that.
MR. BATES: Hale was like that too, D.W. Hale.
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, when did Hale come in?
MR. BATES: You know, I have no idea. I assume from
what I saw of the relationship, as I have
told you before he was the only man that I knew that called Mr. Crump
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you know if they'd been friends a long
MR. BATES: They obviously had been friends for years
and years and years. According to my fa-
ther, Hale had run the county ever since he had been around.
DR. CRAWFORD: How long was Mr. Hale with them?
MR. BATES: Well, he was the Commissioner — the Shelby
County Commission. See they operated under
the County Court for years and they had, Good Lord, I think it was a
hundred and something squires that were on the Shelby County Quar-
terly Court. And these squires they got rich, like Squire Jeeter and
Squire Bennett. This was another one of the powers. They operated
independent, Cliff Davis and Walter Chandler and Mr. Crump and Mr.
DR. CRAWFORD: Uh-huh , that's the picture in this book,
Yesterday's Memphis .
MR. BATES: Uh-huh, yeah.
DR. CRAWFORD: How long did Mr. Hale live?
MR. BATES: He died about in the sixties. He stepped
down and he hand-picked Dave Harsh. But
see, Mr. Crump created the County Commission just like he had the
City Commission. He took all the power of the operation of the County
away from the County Court and gave it to the County Commission. Now
the County Court, at the present time has broad legislative powers which
they exercise, but as long as Mr. Hale was alive the County Court was
absolutely nothing but a rubber stamp for what Mr. Hale said. The
Court didn't act on anything that hadn't been approved by Mr. Hale be-
fore it ever went to Court. And if it came to filling a job in the
County like Riley's as County Trustee, Mr. Crump always had that go
through Mr. Hale. I don't care whether Mr. Crump was for you or Mr.
Crump wasn't. Even if he was for you he sent you down there to get
Mr. Hale's approval.
DR. CRAWFORD: Concerning the county?
MR. BATES: Concerning the county. Absolutely. And
I assume this relationship went back fifty
or sixty years. That's all I can say. Back when they were young men.
DR. CRAWFORD: The age would indicate that.
MR. BATES: Yeah. 'Cause Hale owned a store in White-
haven when it was way out in the county.
His family opened it out there. He owned property out there. He was
an independently wealthy man. They sold that property, Hale and his
sister, Will Jr., up in the millions for that property out there. But
Mr. Hale was another one that bluntly told you "yes, or "no" and his
word was his bond, if he said that. And he'd tell Mr. Crump, "Ed, I
don't go along with that." He'd openly contradict Mr. Crump in these
meetings. I mean they had an open understanding, there wasn't any
wishy washiness between the two of them.
DR. CRAWFORD: But they didn't ever have a break over it,
MR. BATES: No, there had been as I understand it,
there had been times that there were
rather cool relationships but they never had an open break. Because
Mr. Hale had openly said, "Hell, Ed, if you don't want me, that's fine
with me, I'll just go on back out here to Whitehaven," and meant it.
He didn't have to depend on Mr. Crump for anything and Mr. Hale like
so few others knew where all the skeletons were. That's just like
Mr. Crump knew that my father, as far as that's concerned anytime that
he wanted to could have put out a lot of embarrassing information about
a heck of a lot of things, if he'd wanted to go to the trouble.
DR. CRAWFORD: But your father always stayed loyal to
MR. BATES: Yes.
DR. CEAWFORD: Despite his suspicions.
MR. BATES: Right. But Mr. Crump knew that if Daddy
wanted to that he could have blown the
whistle about a lot of things that would have been very very embar-
rassing to a lot of people. The way, for instance that they stole
elections — I mean, it was ridiculous!
Like Overton saying one time, he went down to the first ward, which
is down along Front Street, Main. And Fifth Ward was down along Beale and
those were real big wards at one time, could control elections. And
Overton went down there on one election night and he looked at the re-
gister, where the people had registered to vote and all the guys down
there were drunk and they had registered Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham
Lincoln and Josephine Bonaparte and George Washington. And Overton said,
"For G — 's sake, take this thing and throw it away." They voted them
all. And Daddy swears that they sent him down to Fort Pickering during
the City Judge elections one time and he was sitting there by the ballot
box and they had a poll watcher in there — the other side did — and Daddy,
of course, was friendly with everybody, but he said he couldn't get
that guy to budge from that ballot box. He just sat right there. So
Daddy said he went across the street and he got some chocolate candy
and got some Ex-Lax. He said he was sitting over there throwing that
candy in his mouth and he reached his hand out there to that guy and
he said, "You want some chocolate candy?" He said that guy was sit-
ting there eating that Ex-Lax and he said he could see him sitting
over there, you know, getting kind of active, fooling around and
all of a sudden he said, "Bert would you watch this thing, I've got
And he took off and Daddy said when he did, he pulled that lock
off there and stuck those ballots and slammed that thing down and locked
it again. (Laughter)
Well, I had heard that they voted people
from the cemetery.
Oh, sure they did. I mean even during my
time I can remember one election where we
had the ballots that were so thin that you could see through them when
I was a ward captain. All you had to do when they handed you the bal-
lot was look at it to see how they voted.
DR. CRAWFORD: That's not so far back.
MR. BATES" No, I'll guarantee it. If there was ever
anything debatable about a written ballot
it always went to our favor. If it didn't look like the X was on such
a line it ended up there.
That had something to do with counting.
People knew this in general, I suppose
about Mr. Crump but they probably never
really made these charges outside the city?
MR. BATES: Oh, sure they did. Daddy always laughs
about Boyle when he was custodian of the
courthouse. You know the ballot boxes were always stacked in the
basement of the courthouse, down in the basement of one room. Well,
heck, you always just left the ballots in the ballot boxes until the
next election and then you'd empty them and burn them. But there
wasn't any hurry about it one way or the other. And after one elec-
tion somebody complained about it and they sent the FBI and other
people out of Washington to investigate the election. And when
they heard they were coming he emptied all the ballots out and burned
them. And when they got here and asked him why he emptied out all the
ballots and burned them he said he needed the storage space. (Laughter)
And they weren't in ballot boxes to begin with, but he needed the
storage space. Oh yeah, but really that was a common thing. I think
it was almost accepted. Like Daddy in that election I was talking
about. He went down and dutifully voted in that election I told you
about, Burgin Dossett and Cooper.
DR. CRAWFORD: Gordon Browning?
DR. BATES: Yeah. And he voted for Burgin Dossett. And
he knew that my mother voted for him and
his mother was living with us and he knew that she voted for him and
he knew of four or five other people that were friends of his that
were going to vote for him. And Burgin Dossett didn't get one vote
in our whole precinct.
DR. CRAWFORD: Why was your father supporting Burgin Dos-
MR. BATES: They were close personal friends. And
this instance it was
them a lesson and he
McKellar okayed it.
of course, Mr. Crump was supporting him
At least he started out that way.
Yes, absolutely. Until he thought some-
body was trying to be too officious and in
Daddy. So he thought to himself, well, I'll teach
did. He taught them a lesson all right.
So he was doing that not just against your
Daddy but against Kenneth McKellar?
Yes, I think indirectly so. Because he
thought Daddy wouldn't do anything unless
And McKellar did not stand up for him then?
He sure didn't. He just said he was sorry.
But your Daddy never turned against Mr.
Crump, never said anything against him?
Never! Unbelievable! I never have under-
stood that really.
Was there any talk about Mr. Crump's girl-
friend at the time?
To my knowledge there never has been any.
And your father never said anything critical
No. In fact, he wouldn't even listen to
somebody else say something critical about
DR. CRAWFORD: That was long standing loyalty.
MR. BATES: Yes, that's right.
DR. CRAWFORD: When did Will Gerber become active in
the organization? Was it after Frank
MR. BATES: You know I really don't know. I really
don't have any knowledge about him at
all. I guess I just never questioned Daddy about it, about where he
came in. Daddy knew where they all fit in, when they came in, how
they happened to get there, where they started out, how they were
picked. You know that is just like. . . .
You had political leaders, the wards and precincts were very pow-
erful. Your ward captains were very powerful, like Dave Wells, who
had north Memphis. Now he was powerful. He was a powerful individ-
ual. And so many of these people started like Gerber and others,
started off as proteges of these guys out here on Wells' level. That ' s [who]
the Community Center out there is named after. He ran it; he was a
DR. CRAWFORD: And moved up from there.
MR. BATES: Yeah. Right.
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you remember the son of the former
mayor, Aubrey Clapp?
MR. BATES: Yeah, I remember Aubrey, just. . .He was
approximately my daddy's age.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did he work in the organization any?
MR. BATES: Yeah. From what little I've heard, both
from Mayor Overton and Daddy, Aubrey was
rather big-mouthed, arrogant, overbearing, and I think, dishonest.
According to Daddy, they just barely saved Aubrey from going to the
penitentiary. If it hadn't been for Mr. Crump, he would probably have
gone to misappropriation of funds. But there were many people of
Aubrey's caliber who were for some reason connected with the organ-
ization and enjoyed the protection of The Man who would have amounted
to absolutely nothing if it hadn't been for The Man.
DR. CRAWFORD: It took a lot of work to run an organi-
zation of that size. It took a lot of
MR. BATES: Absolutely. And both people were recog-
nized. You couldn't get a job with the city
or county or state unless you went in to Mr. Rice with a letter from
the ward captain saying that you were all right and that they recom-
mended you for the job. If you didn't have that you didn't get a job.
It was that simple because they were going to use you when election
time came along in that ward.
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you know how Francis Andrews came in?
He followed Mr. Rice or was he in earlier?
MR. BATES: I don't even know how he ingratiated him-
self with Crump. But Francis all the time
that Daddy was connected with the organization was strong. Francis
was kind of a "gofer". You know that's what Mr. Crump used him for
to go for this and for that. He carried the candy around behind
him at the football games, like a big lap dog. That's how Daddy al-
ways talked about him. Daddy never even took Francis seriously.
Francis never contributed anything — input from the standpoint of
ever saying anything. Mr. Crump never took Francis serious enough
to say, "Francis, what do you think about so and so." Now, there
were a lot of people that Francis gave the appearance that he threw
around a lot more weight than what Francis threw around as did a lot
of them. You know, you've got an idea that a lot of people threw a-
round a lot more weight than what they actually had. Like Veazy on
the Park Commission, very close to Mr. Crump.
DR. CRAWFORD: What was his first name?
MR. BATES: Oh, what was Veazy' s first name? I never
called him anything but Mr. Veazy. He
was secretary of the Scottish Rite out here and had been for years
and years and years. That is how he was picked up because of his
connections with Masonry. But when Daddy went on the Park Commission
he said every meeting he attended, Veazy just ran the Park Commission.
I mean they had five other members, but they didn't say anything. Be-
cause Daddy said he'd sit there and throw something they had on the
agenda and he'd say, "Now The Man on the corner says that we're sup-
posed to do so-and-so on this." Daddy said he listened to that about
three meetings, you know. Finally Daddy brought up something and
Veazy said, "Well, now Bert, I don't think The Man on the Corner . . .
And Daddy said, "Let me say something, Veazy, Let me call Mr.
Crump, I'll find out what he thinks, you don't have to tell me."
Veazy said, "That's all right Bert, that's all right. I think
we can take care of that." (Laughter)
But Daddy said, "I'll just call Mr. Crump and see what he thinks
about it, and you won't have to tell me what he thinks." But that's
what they'd pull. The Man on the Corner said so-and-so. H ,The Man
on the Corner might not even know that you was saying something.
DR. CRAWFORD: Possibly a lot of people used that.
MR. BATES: Oh yes, and took advantage of their asso-
ciations with him — that you didn 't know.
Yeah, I used to think all kinds of people were important. I'd say
something to Overton and Overton would laugh, you know.
DR. CRAWFORD: He seemed to have known what was really
going on. What position did Walter Chand-
ler have in relation to Mr. Crump? Was he independent?
MR. BATES: No, not at all. I think that from what
I've heard and what I call reliable and
first hand information, Walter Chandler was, number one, a fine per-
son, extremely dedicated and community-wise. There wasn't any ques-
tion about it — high principles. I think his association with the or-
ganization was just like so many people. He came up as a dynamic
young man in his early life, got interested in politics. Mr. Crump
took interest in him because of his civic activity and Mr. Chandler
proved himself and he did exactly what Mr. Crump said. Now, when he
went to Congress, I think that was his real niche. Daddy always said
that Walter Chandler was cut out to be a Congressman and he was one of
the few freshman Congressmen that actually got legislation passed. He
was that adept and that qualified and when Mr. Crump brought him back
as mayor, Daddy said that he thinks it kind of broke Walter that he
didn't want to come back as mayor. He liked Congress and he wanted
to stay there.
DR. CRAWFORD: But he had to do what Mr. Crump said.
MR. BATES: But he had to do what Mr. Crump said, even
though he didn't want to. But he did and
he never said anything about Mr. Crump. And he was an excellent mayor
and always well-liked.
DR. CRAWFORD: That's another case of loyalty to Mr. Crump
MR. BATES: Absolutely. Absolutely and he was. But
so was Boyle and so was Fredericks. You
either were or you weren't there, one or the other.
Who was the person who married the woman
across the street from
And what position did Louis Grashot hold?
After he came out of the service in World
War II, Mr. Crump made him the Commissioner
of Public Service.
DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Crump turned against him, didn't he?
MR. BATES: Well, he didn't turn against him until
Louis and his wife fell out and they were
talking divorce. As soon as this came up they found good cause for
Mr. Grashot to resign. And I think there Mr. Overton was a little
remiss. Overton was the man that had to call him in and ask for his
resignation. And I'll say this, Louis was enough of a man at the time
to say that he wasn't going to give him his resignation. And Overton
told him, "Well, you will or I'll have to go to the papers about these
trips that you've been making all over the country at the air lines'
And he said, "Well, he was toing to talk to Mr. Crump."
And Overton said, "Well, I strongly suggest that's what you do."
And of course he resigned the next day.
DR. CRAWFORD: This had already started with Mr. Crump,
hadn't it? Do you think his divorce had
anything to do with this?
MR. BATES: Oh, I don't think there was any question
about it. I don't think they would have
even bothered him had he gotten along with his wife. He was just mar-
ried to the wrong person, that s all. 'Cause Louis was a very competent
person, I thought. I wasn't wild about Louis in certain ways but he
was a very competent individual. No question about that and made a
DR. CRAWFORD: How did Mr. Crump get along with Cliff
Davis? I know Cliff started with an in-
dependent power base of his own with the K.u-Klux-Klan .
MR. BATES: Yeah, but he became almost like a joint
member of the organization. But there
again was a young man. Cliff got his start really as a young Baptist.
And he was an all-star debater at Tech High School and he got his law
degree and then he got interested in politics. I think the Ku-Klux-
Klan got him interested. But then Mr. Crump was sold on Cliff, but he
knew Cliff was going to be elected. That's how he happened to pick
Cliff. Cliff didn't pick him up, he picked up Cliff. Then of course,
like everybody else, once they get at that though and it's so easy
to just lay back and not worry about election as long as you do what
The Man says, you're like a suckling child. You're going to be taken
care of. And then once he's got you, that's the end of it, because
you never want to have to go out and say well I'm going to run against
the organization and raise my own money because you know what you'd be
facing. I don't care how strong you were or how popular. You could
be number one today and you could be nothing tomorrow. If The Man
said, "You're out," you were out.
DR. CRAWFORD: Awfully hard to be independent in those
Yeah, it is.
Had Mr. Crump decided to get rid of Cliff
Davis before this shooting in the house?
That's correct. Yeah, that happens to
be the truth.
Why had he decided to get rid of him?
I think primarily Cliff's personal habits.
He was drinking a bit more, I believe by
then than he had been.
Heavily, heavily. And Mr. Crump was get-
ting, you know, Overton was knocking him
and there were a lot of people that were close to Crump that even
though they liked Cliff, thought Cliff was loafing on the job. I
think that this kind of ultimately built to a head. Now Cliff had
all the personality in the world. There's no question about that.
And he made a beautiful speech. He was one of the few speakers
that I know that could sit and talk for an hour and you felt like
you'd only been there fifteen minutes.
DR. CRAWFORD: He might have learned something when he
was a star debater then in school?
MR. BATES: Yeah. But he was fascinating and he
could tell one story after another. He
was that type of a speaker. Like Andy Holt at the University of Ten-
nessee. He was the same type speaker. Everything was illustrated
by a story and it just went on and on and on and you really weren't
aware how long he had talked. He was a fascinating person.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did Mr. Crump try to cover up the fact
that he was drinking to try help him a-
long for awhile?
MR. BATES: No. Now that's something that Mr. Crump
didn't do. He wouldn't cover up or try
to help anybody. If you were your own worst enemy, you were just
your own worst enemy and that's all there was to it. And except for
that shooting incident, I think Cliff was a gone guy.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did that sort of save his standing?
MR. BATES: It sure did, just overnight.
DR. CRAWFORD: How did it do that?
MR. BATES: And the funny thing is that it happened
right at election time and he got all that
big publicity and Mr. Crump felt like, well now wouldn't I look like
an ass, if I come out here just right on top of this right at election
time. If I come out publicly and denounce this man, I'm going to
look like — his hands were tied completely. And then he (Cliff Davis)
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, that was something that Cliff Davis
couldn't have planned but it certainly
MR. BATES: Absolutely. Like Cliff always when he'd
get tight, you know, he said, "All I was
trying to do was get under one of those desks." (Laughter)
DR. CRAWFORD: Yes, that's where he got hit with the
shot, I believe.
MR. BATES: Uh-huh, that's right, got hit in the leg.
Sure did. But you know, that's just like
the organization. He lived in the 36th Ward, Cliff did. Daddy lived
in the 36th. Thirty-Sixth was the biggest ward in the city back then
and Cliff worked his street just like Daddy worked his street and he
was a U.S. Congressman. But he called on them door to door about voting
just like Daddy did. Nobody was any different when it came to election
DR. CRAWFORD: How did they get people out to vote on
election day? How did they make sure
that the whole complement turned out?
MR. BATES: Well, we each, every ward captain, had a
book, alphabetical and we had, of course,
access to the registration list and these books were made up directly
from the registration list. We knew each person in our ward, because
we'd have a person on each street. And we knew each person in our
ward, how they stood, whether they were pro or anti. An as every
person, as people came in and voted, we'd check them off and then when
it got to be maybe four o'clock in the afternoon if we had so many on
there that we knew for us hadn't been down and voted, we got people on
the telephone, calling them to come down. And in certain cases, if
they were disabled we sent down there and got them and brought them
up there and voted them.
DR. CRAWFORD: Did you have people around with cars to
MR. BATES: Absolutely. Hell, we had enough city
and county workers in every ward to take
care of that. No ifs, ands , and buts. And I'm going to tell you,
if you were a city worker you better be available on election day.
See, we didn't work on election day. It was only when Henry Loeb
came in down there as mayor that we ever started opening on Election
Day. And in fact, as far as I'm personally concerned, I think as
public servants and I think being on the tax rolls, I think we
should be closed down on election day. In fact, I think all busi-
nesses should be closed on election day.
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, it would get a larger turnout, as
the organization knew very well.
MR. BATES: No question about it. Of course, those
people worked. election day wasn't a
holiday for us. It was for us a working day and you worked harder on
Election Day a lot of times than you did down there on the job. And
don't think that we didn't check to see that everybody that held a
job didn't get there and vote too.
DR. CRAWFORD: And checked to be sure that the right
number was out there?
MR. BATES: Absolutely, that's correct.